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Enzymes from Different Sources: Is There a Difference?


Enzyme products are advertised everywhere and, quite frankly, it can be confusing trying to decide which ones to use and how much to take. Adding to this confusion is the little-discussed issue of exactly where the enzymes come from and whether or not the origin of the enzyme makes any difference.

Enzymes can come from animals, plants or microbial organisms. Around fifty years ago, enzymes were being produced strictly from animals. Pigs or cows were butchered and enzymes were extracted from their pancreases. The problems with animal enzymes were multifold. They were not very stable at the low pH (acidic) environment of the stomach so that taking them orally meant that much of the enzyme product was destroyed before doing the job. The animal enzymes were quite temperature sensitive and, unfortunately, we don't have the same body temperature as many other animals. Finally, animal enzymes were limited as to type. Animal pancreases, for example, weren't much different from human enzymes. So, if our own enzymes weren't doing the job, how could we expect more of the same to be any better?

Plant enzymes were discovered and used next. Bromelain was isolated from pineapple and papain came from papayas. These animal-friendly enzymes are much more stable under low pH conditions, such as inside the stomach, and temperature changes don't seem to affect them as much. While clearly a step up from animal enzymes, plant enzymes don't always give much variety in what they can do. In digestive conditions, they work very well; however, as systemic enzymes doing their work outside of the digestive tract, there isn't much to choose from.

To review plant based enzymes click here.

Microbial enzymes have since come along and provide for numerous enzymes that perform multiple body functions. In fact, there are likely microbial enzymes out there that we haven't even discovered yet-enzymes that will one day prove beneficial to us. Microbial enzymes are extracted from fermented bacteria or fermented fungal organisms. Each has been tested for effectiveness and safety in humans and those that show promise are researched and provided for human use.

In a sense, the ability to tailor microbial enzymes to our benefit is what makes these enzymes so powerful. They are chosen for their stability in different environments and for their ability to perform a valuable enzymatic function in our body. There are even research studies that prove the ability of a particular enzyme to be adequately absorbed by the intestinal tract so we know that what we're taking is actually getting where it needs to go.

The answer, then, to the question of whether or not the source of a particular enzyme matters, is that there is a real difference when comparing enzymes from different sources. As always, when choosing a product that is right for you, do your research, find out if the enzyme is from a source you trust. Read the labels carefully and make sure you are taking a product that is designed to remain stable, to go where it needs to and to perform a function for you that is exactly what you need. To review plant based enzymes click here.